Henri Matisse: Art for Kids

I enjoy teaching kids’ art camps during the summer months.  I generally have a class of 4-7 year olds and a class of 8+ year olds.  Each session is once a week for 4 weeks and I usually have two sessions during the summer. Over the next several weeks, I’ll share what we’re covering in class here in case they can be of use to you. These simple, fun lesson plans are perfect for homeschool families and co-ops and would also work well for fighting off the boredom during the summer months. (Except I feel like our summers are way busier than during the school year.  Is that just us?)


I usually incorporate a book or two into our lessons.  I love how picture books introduce us to the artist without overwhelming the children (or myself!) with a lot of technical, dry information.  I often read a picture book aloud while older kids are working, and for my younger classes we take a break halfway through, sit on the floor and concentrate on just reading the book. I often have some reference type books on hand as well for the older kids to see reproductions of the artist’s work.   
This week we talked about Henri Matisse and his work, using these three books:


I love this Prang Watercolor Set for kids.  Make sure to get the kind that is NOT washable.  The colors are so much more vivid.
Watercolor paper. This is a great option for kids. It will stand up to some scrubbing by little ones, but it’s still cheap enough to not worry about them going through page after page.
Brushes. This set is a good option for kids.

Techniques Covered

We covered how to properly care for paintbrushes.  I often refer to this as the hairdo.  As in “don’t give the brush a bad hairdo”.  Things to avoid: leaving the brush upside down in water for extended periods, storing the brush upside down, making smashing/scraping motions with the brush on the paper, etc.
We talked about what happens when you use wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry, dry-on-dry watercolor. This is referring to the amount of water in your paint/on your paper.  Play around with painting clear water over the page and adding very wet paint to it.  It spreads and mixes beautifully.  On a new dry paper, use a smaller brush and less water in the paint.  This allows for much more precision. (See an example of the different between these two techniques above).
Organic verses Geometric Shapes:  Geometric shapes are defined, concrete shapes like squares, circles, rectangles, triangles, etc.  Matisse used much more organic, free-flowing shapes in his collage and painting.
The kids had a blast talking and painting their Matisse-inspired masterpieces.  I love to watch them experiment and learn together.  It’s so neat to watch them put their own spin on the techniques and methods we cover in class.  Up next week: Georgia O’Keefe.  Can’t wait!